We’ve conducted an interesting social media experiment over the past few months via our personal Facebook pages. We’ve diligently and regularly dropped almost all media outlets and publications we once deemed assumed were legit and useful (American, mainly) that are lately utterly polluted with bad PR in the guise of news, humour or entertainment. (Or “music”).
The experiment took a hard line on any post from any corner that irritates, needlessly provokes, is upsetting, is click bait, seems to have been taken over by shitty interns overnight, has changed focus or seems to be deliberately tanking their brand (may it rest, the once mighty NME) whether this came in the guise of news, political agendas, so-called “music” stories (gossip, beefs) about so-called music or so-called humour. I also unliked and unfollowed anything boring, stale, or repetitive, even if I really like pretty interior design and shitty memes at times.
Today, one of the last tolerable ones, Fast Company, went in the bin as as they decided to ruin their brand this a.m. with Bieber music/video recommendations to “Bieber fans” of all things. Of course readers’ comments (who must skew upwards of 50) were livid, but that’s sort of the point these days in an upside down world where formerly authoritative sources of information have lashed out at their own cannibalistic demise by becoming the biggest, most well-funded trolls on the block.
Already for the past year, any page that suddenly posted on Beiber, Swift, Miley, celebs would be gone in 60 seconds (after a parting comment from us). U.S. music/culture press is about dead, or we’d never see those names in serious publications.
What has happened to pop culture is still distressing for those of us who loved it when there was a healthy print culture that allowed for diversity and indie productions at all levels of entertainment and media. The distress is finally manageable if writers and indies have something else to say and are willing to thrust ourselves into the riot of noise in the world, but the bigger point is, Facebook seems to still skew to any bigger corporate entities as to what comes down our feeds, cutting us off from the things we’d want to see.
If you’ve been on Facebook for a few years and casually liked many different pages: brands, tourist related pages, magazines, bands, TV shows, etc. you will not see most of the small, worthy pages you are actually interested in. The local, or those that sorely need your love and support. Your friends or bands or the local shop you love and liked as a reminder. They will simply not be seen unless they post a lot, or if you tend to actively post there and there are active comment threads. Well-attended groups will do better than pages for this reason, where actual communities, the last shred of authentic Facebook, hold strong (for example, devoted music communities like those around Shoegaze thrive and resist a lot of outside noise). But unless you are a presence in strong groups or filter very well, you may just get corporate messaging from greedy pages with 500k + followers and not those relevant ones with just a hard won 1500 likes.
After the purge, we’re finally seeing long buried, genuine, worthy pages by bands, (many quite worthy ones have far fewer than 100k likes) independent media, art and things that are useful and not needlessly stressful and wasteful to my time and mental space.
We deserve to be happy. That’s something we never hear from media, as it drowns out all the real music that not only tells us that, but delivers that in mere seconds. This is a crime we’ve allowed and we over 30’s know better. We’re writing this to you, our peers. We need to fight this and lead this and change the relationship we have with social media which has become a monster. Like most monsters, we can learn to keep it at bay most of the time. But this social media shit can kill. It can quite clearly hurt your spirit and creativity. And we allow it into bed with us.
In the wake of the latest and entirely horrific world crises, due to our maintenance of social media information, we are, for the first time, not faced with dozens of idiotic think pieces or click bait by shrill millennial interns or corporate messages about how to think, feel, react, be depressed and frustrated, or demonstrate public empathy in the right way. We read about two or three news outlets in UK & Canada and move on because for our well being, that is key. Twitter is a safer and less polluted way to assess world news, on the ground truths from human beings, pure, unfiltered public reaction, and to stay informed.
Under the false banner of the former place for friends to connect with friends, the hopelessly corporatized and monetized Facebook can be aggressively dangerous to sensitive people of all ages. Management of what we let in to “our” space is essential to using the tool in the ways we need it. Remember when it was your wall/my wall? The change of name to “feed” is quite telling, and no accident.
It would seem that the only way to help “the world” day to day, aside from actual activism (not slacktivism or obsessing over news and pseudo news that follows in its wake) is to be a force for good in the areas of the world you have control over. Big and small. And to allow the same into our public/private spaces in the same way. To be a friend, not a hater. To recognize the difference. To cull and filter. To be kind and to give support/likes/comments to those you care about the same way. It’s positive action. It’s all connected.
You can be one of 20 million likes on a silly pic or you can take a second to give encouragement to an indie musician or photographer both of whom have seen their always misunderstood work and talent violently devalued through this same technology. If we like them as people or artists we owe them that. If not, friends you are not. If you like the new profile picture but not the meat of what really matters to your friends in their lives, whether aligned with yours or different, maybe you aren’t friends, but strangers who knew each other once. Or, to you innocent and even silent lurkers, who are rooting for each other, maybe come out once in a while (or send a private message). It can make someone’s day as well as your own to add the humanity back to this weird world most of us live in.
From culling, filtering and purging, we now hear from and reach friends & artists whose interests align with ours. We filter, filter, filter. We find long buried little gems or oddities everyday, like the fact that we really did love Scuba Caribe that much in 2012. We also find things we’re “liking” that we never clicked ourselves. It could be the political party that is not one you want to promote or something more harmless. We are now less irritated and stressed, and can give freely and have found the same spirit in other good people. We’re happier. Our friends, an astounding percentage of which have blossomed on social media are consistently supportive and stay in touch, they don’t lurk, or stalk, ignore, or withhold goodwill.
Notes on the experiment:
In the great purge, you’ll find loads of junky stuff you most definitely didn’t “like” that you are liking through some dark digital magic, so have a look and tell me if you have similar results.They just happen to be big brands and they become advertising that your lovely face (or your kids’) is now pitching for free to all your friends.
This social space is almost privacy-less and respecting others’ boundaries and protecting our own is key. It is what you make it. It has enormous potential on any level you could want if you look & act outside your own garden patch and I am less lonely than I’ve ever been (and always was). It would be a revolution if we woke up & handled social the way we do a house buy, selecting childcare, negotiated the room at a party, or everyday clutter. And if we paid attention to what WE bring to the party and also how it all makes us feel.
Bythe Editors: Dave MacIntyre & Jacqueline Howell
Tell us what relevant magazines/publications and worthy/interesting projects/music/we should be liking and following. We regularly share and link to those we are fans of to our Facebook page.
Step On Magazine is on Facebook here and Twitter (also Dave’s profile) here. Jacqueline Howell is on Facebook here and Twitter here. We are interested in your own experiences and opinions about social media.